The Beauty Industry: Gender, Culture, Pleasure

The Beauty Industry: Gender, Culture, Pleasure

The Beauty Industry: Gender, Culture, Pleasure

The Beauty Industry: Gender, Culture, Pleasure


The beauty industry is now a multinational, multi-million dollar business. In recent years its place in contemporary culture has altered hugely as salons have become not simply places to have your hair cut or your nails done, but increasingly sites of physical and even spiritual therapy. In this fascinating and nuanced study, Paula Black strips away many popular assumptions about the beauty industry, including the one that says it exploits people's insecurity by projecting an illusory beauty myth. The interviews in this book - both with the beauty industry's workers and its clients - reveal a far more complex and interesting picture, and, in their presentation, Black re-formulates many feminist debates around choice and constraint. The debates addressed include issues around the body; the construction and maintenance of gender identity; changing definitions of health and well-being; and labour processes.


Introducing the work of the beauty salon

Yvette owns a beauty salon in a small city in the UK. This salon caters predominantly to white women who do not have access to large amounts of disposable income. Yvette is adamant that visits to salons are a necessary and pleasurable part of a woman's life.

I mean we still get ladies in who say 'Oh I can't afford that'. My answer is well, I ask them a question, 'Has he [husband] got a football season ticket?' and if she says 'Yes', 'Well, spend an equal amount of money on your face', and then they see it in a different light. Because the man is a bit old-fashioned, you know, 'Spending all that money on your face, you can't see what's happened'.

(Yvette BT)

The discussion from which this quote is taken arose during a period I spent at Yvette's in the run-up to Christmas. During this time my role was to offer glasses of sherry and mince pies to the women coming into the salon for pre-holiday treatments. The conversation among these women, fuelled a little by the sherry, turned to relationships with men and their views about the amount of time and money women spend on their bodies. The general feeling was that men did not understand the benefits of beauty salon treatments or the effort that went into maintaining a feminine appearance. Yvette herself points out how many men come into the salon at that time of year in order to purchase gift vouchers for

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